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CHITTAGONG – Bangladeshi-based denim manufacturer, Mostafiz Uddin, has urged European and US governments to re-open fashion stores – suggesting constant lockdowns are decimating supply chains in Asia and leading to job losses, hunger and destitution among garment workers.

The Denim Expert owner’s letter, re-printed in full here, has now gone viral and – we are reliably told by our German contacts – even reached the eyes of German Chancellor, Angela Merkel.

The gist of Uddin’s argument is that the huge impact of lockdowns on the Bangladeshi economy – which is more than 80 per cent dependent on garments for its exports – is in danger of creating a humanitarian crisis in the country. He says there is also confusion among suppliers – and their customers – that many ‘non-essential’ stores remain open in Europe and the US.

The letter is re-printed in full below (the thoughts of readers on this emotive subject are welcome):

I am writing this open letter to flag certain aspects relating to Bangladesh and its trading partners in Europe, UK and the US – and beyond. This letter is aimed at government ministers in the key trading partners of Bangladesh.

We are all aware of the ways the coronavirus has significantly altered the trading landscape and consequently orders have inevitably been reduced to Asian garment manufacturing hubs, such as our own in Bangladesh.

Yet, for apparel manufacturers in Bangladesh, the situation has now reached a critical stage. The continuing lockdowns in Europe, UK and the US – our two main trading partners – are killing industry in Bangladesh, leading to hundreds of thousands of job losses, sharp rises in poverty and destitution for young women who rely on this industry as a lifeline. Literally, hundreds of factories in the industry are dying; and most of those may never come back to operation.

Many countries in Europe, UK as well as the US closed fashion stores before Christmas. Those are yet to re-open. Meanwhile, I understand, many other stores remain open – even some which might be deemed non-essential.

While it is absolutely a matter of sovereign choice of the any Government and State, I wonder if the consequences in far-away place called Bangladesh impacting the existence of millions of poor people who form essential part of the supply chain ending would merit consideration?

Given the complexity and seriousness, I may most humbly urge governments in the UK, US and Europe to re-consider the current stance on the closure of fashion stores, as a matter of urgency. Many stores, I am told, have implemented major safety changes, including one-way systems for customers. As suppliers, we are confused as to why they remain closed in these circumstances.

While I do understand the urgency to fully contain the impact of the deadly virus, I may humbly underline that, in Bangladesh, the impact of the virus is deadlier in its own way. For certain, so many of our workers, largely female, stand to slide rapidly to a complex web of poverty – inequality – vulnerability. These young women are hugely dependent on apparel exports to stores in Europe and beyond.

If things slide further for Bangladesh, I have grave concerns of a humanitarian crisis. RMG is our major export – we are more than 80 per cent dependent on garment exports. We have had 12-months of the tap being turned on and off for this export and it is, quite literally, ruining us. I have grave fears if apparel stores remain closed through spring and beyond.

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